In the first of our guest articles Mary Woodnutt writes on an area she is passionate about and has some expertise on.
If, like me, you are a relative newcomer to Newcastle, you may be forgiven for thinking the Community Centre plays host to the very busy Country Market every Saturday and is used relatively little apart from that. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Centre, situated right in the middle of the village, is open to all members of the Newcastle community and is a hive of activity. It is a fantastic amenity built through the hard work of the community in the 1980s. Newcastle, in common with many other communities, had a great need of good sporting and creative facilities in order to provide a better and more meaningful life for both its young and not-so-young citizens. Such facilities were an essential prerequisite to the health and well being of what was at that stage a rapidly growing population. A communal facility would ensure that the youth, in particular, would not become disillusioned with life and would be provided with what may have been hidden talents. In 1981, to commemorate 800 years of Newcastle Village, it was decided to build the Community Centre.
Wicklow County Council allocated a half acre site for the development of the current Newcastle Community Centre. Plans were drawn up for a centre which would include a main hall with stage and sufficient meeting rooms to provide space for numerous sporting activities ranging from Badminton, Netball, Gymnastics and Bowls to Dancing and Drama. In addition it was planned there would be a crèche for the young and a comfortable TV rest room with the elderly in mind. It was clear that fundraising would have to be intensive and a limited company was set up to safeguard the interest of the local people. Completing the very worthwhile project required huge enthusiasm and major fundraising.
In 1981 the first of many annual community weeks was staged. The fun and festivities included a Crossroads Dance which was filmed and appeared on "Countrywide". The chairman of the committee explained to all the viewers how a very small community could achieve so much with lots of effort and enthusiast. A massive sum of £12,000 was raised within the year. The fundraising activities included lots of dances - Lord Mayors Dance, Barn Dance, Valentine's Day Ball, Halloween Dance, Macra Dance, St Patrick's night Dance, Children's Dance , Crossroads Dance and junior discos. Other activities included card drives, music nights, Fetes, food fairs. Major community efforts with lots of craic.
In March 1982 the first sod was turned and the Foundation Stone was laid in May of that year. It was during the 5th Community week on 26th May 1985 the official opening Ceremony and Blessing of the Centre was held. Donncha O'Dulaing, the well-known broadcaster opened the Centre.
Now, 30 plus years later, thanks to members of the community, the Centre is thriving. It is inclusive and open to all members of the Community regardless of creed, gender or age. It is a great venue for parties, meetings, christenings and much more with a fully functioning kitchen. The Centre is managed by a Board of Directors that is elected at the AGM in October every year. The vision for the Centre is to "Provide a first class centre for the community of Newcastle which is viable, fully utilised and a social and cultural hub for a vibrant community" has changed very little from aspirations of the 1980s.
Perhaps its now time to change and review the Vision? More on this at a later date.
The Centre's weekly calendar consists of:
Monday - Friday morning: Community Playgroup
Monday evening: Ballroom Dancing
Tuesday Morning: Crafts
Tuesday afternoon: Ladybirds
Tuesday evening: Badminton
Wednesday morning: Ladies coffee morning
Wednesday evening: Keep Fit classes (seasonal)
Thursday morning: Art Classes
Thursday evening: Crafts
Saturday morning: Country Market
The board has been busy during the year making applications for funding. It has applied to the Sports Capital Grant for funding to build a wheelchair accessible toilet and shower. It has also persuaded Wicklow County Council to apply for funds to build a Multi-Usage Games Court An application has also been submitted for funding to buy equipment to develop the two existing tennis courts to Multi-Usage Games area to allow the courts to be opened up for basketball, Olympic handball, hockey and football.
The next big community event to be held in the Centre is the Eco-Ecumenical event which is being held on 11th June. See above for more info.
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